Retired professor gives $500,000 to help low-income students at Fresno State study abroad


FRESNO, California (KSEE/KGPE) – A different kind of bug is hitting the student population here in Fresno–the travel bug.

At Fresno State, the study abroad program is taking to the skies as it receives $500,000 from a retired professor of the university.

Elizabeth Shields and her late husband, John were avid travelers, but not always having enough money to do so, decided to donate the money to give low-income students the opportunity to see life in other countries and cultures.

Many are grateful for the gift.

“Things can be very different, and I think that tells you a little bit about your own home culture — what assumptions you make on kind of a daily basis. So it opens up the way that you realize that there’s not one way of doing something, you know there’s many ways. And it’s not just one right way, there’s a lot of different things that you can think about things,” Fresno State Professor Jes Therkelsen said.

Fresno State President Joseph Castro said it’s really going to make an impact.

“I think it’s going to make them much stronger leaders–not just for the Central Valley, but for the whole world.” (6 seconds)

The gift is the largest gift ever given to the program and Monday people gathered to thank Shields and her family for the generosity.

Scott Moore, the dean of Continuing and Global Education, said, “There’s a wonderful quote: ‘All who wander are not lost and the students who study abroad, they have a thirst for knowledge — they’re globally aware. They have a greater appreciation of national diversity,’ and those are the types of students that we produce here at Fresno State.”

A tree has been planted in honor of the Shields family on Fresno State’s campus.

To help grow the Shields Family Study Abroad Fund, contact Katie Adamo Bewarder at

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